Just about 3 years ago, I left my executive position at a small internet company. After giving it some thoughts, I decided on a new career path as a real estate agent. I was gravitated toward this field because I started to dabble in real estate investing a few years prior. In this article, I want to outline steps in becoming a real estate agent for those who are interested in giving this career a try.


Before you quit your job you have to understand a few things about becoming a real estate agent.

  1. You will be a contractor, not an employee. This has many significant implications:
    • No health and/or dental insurance
    • No disability insurance
    • No holidays
    • No vacation days
    • No set work schedule
    • No 401k (you can still open your own IRA account)
    • No regular pay checks
  2. Plan on $0 income for the first 3 months and plenty of expenses to start up as a new real estate agent. So have at least 6 months worth of money saved up.

Licensing and Becoming a Realtor

When I worked my way toward a real estate license, I kept my full-time job. Since this process can be done on at your own pace and it could take a few months, there is no reason to leave your job until you have a license. In fact, it is better to keep your job until you can get established and ready to switch to a full-time agent.

To get your license:

  1. Pick a State in which you will operate in. A real estate agent has to be licensed for each state. For most people, this is very easy — just pick the state you’re living in. For example, I started in Virginia.
  2. Find a “Pre-Licensing” course. You can usually find this through a local real estate office or online. Just google “[State] real estate pre-licensing course” and you will find plenty of result. Be sure to read reviews before you sign up with anyone. For example, Moseley offers a Virginia Pre-Licensing course.
  3. Complete the course.
  4. Take the course exam. Once you pass the course exam, you will be eligible to take your State and National licensing exams.
  5. Take State and National licensing exams. This is done through PSI in Virginia and Maryland. For your State, this may be different. Ask your course provider or local real estate board and they will know.
  6. Join a Brokerage Firm. Once you pass all your exams, contact several brokerage firms. Most firms are looking for more agents, so you’re really interviewing them and not the other way around. Some of the questions you should ask are:
    • What are the fees?
    • How will the commission be split between you and them?
    • What support can you expect from the firm?
    • What technologies and services are included in the fees?
    • What expenses are not covered by the firm?
    • Will the firm provide you with any leads?
    • Do they have any other requirements?
  7. Get Your License. Once you join a firm, your Broker will help you file an application with your State Real Estate Board and get your license so you can start working as a real estate agent.
  8. Join a local Realtor Association. Your firm will be associated with one or more Realtor Associations. You will have to join one in order to access some of the essential tools, technologies, and support to work. Once you join an association, you’ll become a Realtor. For example, I joined the Realtor Association of Prince William.
  9. Join your local MLS. In addition to joining an association, you will have to join an MLS. An MLS is a database of all the homes for sale and for rent in the area. Without this, you don’t have the essential information to operate as a Realtor. You can sign up for access to the MLS through your Realtor Association. For example, mine is MRIS.
  10. Get your key card.  In addition to access to the MLS, you will have to be able to get in and out of homes for sale. In my area, we use SentriLock key card and lock-boxes. You can get this from the local Realtor Association as well.

Basically, these are the 10 steps to become a real estate agent. If you’re in my area (DC, Virginia, and Maryland), feel free to contact me and I will coach you through the process. I am always looking for a good agent to join my team…and that could be you.

Become a Real Estate Agent for Free

Qualifying applicants can receive up to $2,500 towards the cost of becoming a real estate professional. The Real Heroes Program*, offered through PenFed Realty, is designed to support veterans, military spouses, and active duty men and women in their transition from the military to a civilian career in real estate.

Financial barriers removed. The $2,500 can cover the cost of:

  • Real estate licensing classes
  • Real estate licensing exams
  • Insurance (for real estate professionals)
  • Membership in applicable real estate associations

About the author

Pinyo Bhulipongsanon

Pinyo Bhulipongsanon


I am a full-time Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices PenFed Realty. I specialize in representing clients in the purchase and sale of single-family residences and income properties throughout Virginia and Maryland areas around DC.

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